Landlords urged to insure against defaults

Landlords may resist covering themselves against the risk of defaulting tenants, even as possessions rise, because of a fear of high premiums, according to Let Insurance Services.

It warns that this ‘strategy’ could prove to be a false economy now that the risk to the lettings market has increased driven by rising unemployment and, in some areas, falling rents. These lower rents are occurring where ‘reluctant’ landlords are causing a glut by letting properties they cannot move on the sales market.

Government statistics may show that rent possession cases reaching the courts are considerably lower than the peak reached in 2002. These statistics include both the private rented sector and social landlords. However, Let Insurance Services, which supplies tenant referencing, rent and legal protection insurances to letting agents, says they have fallen only because of the pre-action protocol for social housing.

It believes the reality is different. Rent possession claims have risen by nearly 10% from a year ago and are likely to increase further.

Demand is growing significantly for specialist insurance to cover the loss of rental income and the legal expenses to pursue defaulting tenants, according to Michael Portman, managing director of Let Insurance Services.

He said:“However, remember that premiums may vary and landlords and their letting agents must be very cautious with cheap insurance quotes. You will get what you pay for and if you do not pay enough, the cover could fall badly short.

“Read the small print very carefully.”

Full insurance against potential loss is likely to average between 1.5% and 3% of monthly rental income. However, risk management begins with referencing as it is difficult to get full cover without demonstrating that proper tenant references were obtained.

Portman said: “Even in today’s climate, when change in a tenant’s circumstances can happen overnight, proper checks still help to reduce risk to a tenancy and to keep premiums down.

“The specialist insurance and credit referencing market is now a sophisticated niche market where the problems and opportunities are properly understood. This market has grown substantially over the past few years. As a result, it is well placed to alleviate loss of income and any expense caused by tenants who are victims of the credit crunch,” he added. “Many landlords understand this and are already covering themselves properly. Insurance should be high on every letting agent’s check list too, if they are to do their job properly.”

Premiums for rental guarantee and legal expenses are only payable on tenancies once they have been agreed and they are allowable for tax purposes.

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